Outspoken former Springbok coach Nick Mallett believes current coaches and selectors “haven’t used their brains” when it comes to effecting meaningful transformation efforts.
South African rugby’s renewed effort for better representation is once again in the spotlight worldwide following an in-depth article published by Britain’s The Guardian.
According to the South African Rugby Union’s strategic transformation plan, the Springboks are required to have 50% black representation by 2019.
Despite fierce resistance from certain quarters, Mallett says the target is achievable.
“Ideally we would like to just pick the best players but transformation is part of South Africa and it is possible to get close to that 50% mark even now,” he told the publication.
“But the coaches and selectors haven’t used their brains. We even picked a white scrum-half, Francois Hougaard, on the wing – as Allister Coetzee did last year.”
The former national mentor, who had a fine 71% win record during his tenure from 1997 to 2000, noted that that selection was unacceptable.
“It was a poor decision because we have some great black wingers. It was a real slap in the face of any competitive black player. And when you look at fullback we have three players, Dillyn Leyds, Warrick Gelant and Andries Coetzee. They are of similar ability. My view is you must give the opportunity to the black player (Gelant or Leyds) because you’re not going to weaken the side,” said Mallett.
He also questions the continued absence of Lions centre Lionel Mapoe but admits there’s still a gap between white and black players in positions such as tighthead prop and lock.
Naas Botha, the legendary Bok flyhalf, believes transformation is merely a convenient excuse to hide South African rugby’s poor skill levels.
“I never had any complaints regarding the way forward. It’s the new South Africa and for rugby to grow you must involve everybody. I just get fed up with people saying the quota system is the problem,” he said.
“Absolute nonsense. We are not losing because of quotas. We lose because we’re not playing well. I watched the semi-finals of Currie Cup and half the guys couldn’t even catch the ball.”
Thando Manana, a former Springbok flanker who toured to Europe in 2000, noted how all the Super Rugby coaches next season are white, highlighting another divide.